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TV: Graham Norton Show \ So Television \ BBC One \ Episode 8.5

November 27, 2010

Good TV isn’t complicated. The rules are the same regardless of genre. The premise has to be simple (not to mention authentic).

It’s execution has to be a seamless blend of technical expertise and innate talent combined with years of experience. The audience should be left mesmerized (as far as the audience can given the type of programme he or she is watching). Nobody should be left wondering “what on earth went on there?” when the credits have finished rolling. It’s that simple.

And what’s more, it can all be condensed into a simple formula. Good celebrity bookers + good deals struck = (usually) Good TV.

Episode 5 of the Graham Norton Show is a pretty good case study, though it’s not without it’s faults.

First and foremost, it’s a demonstration of what any half decent celebrity guest booker will need if they’re going to save a TV programme from relying on cheap gimmicks and shit ‘comic’ lines to save itself from itself. If the guests are good, the show has good foundations. You can’t go far wrong with the likes of Bette Midler as the big draw.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

But a celebrity guest booker doesn’t just have to posess a list of agents’ telephone numbers and be able to charm the birds from the bees or negotiate themselves out of a compliance-related nightmare. Oh no.

Celebrity bookers need to have an innate sense of who works well with who. Once you’ve got your big draw, who’s going to counter the top-billing in a suitably complimentary way. What have they got to sell to the over-excited crowd? Stephen Fry fits the bill. His relatively big presence on the domestic media market, didn’t compete with the star quality of Bette Midler who sizzled and simmered and entertained perched next to our Graham. A good pairing. Credit to So Television’s current talent manager Renee Jamieson and Tony Jordan.

And what about the third guest. The relative unknown. The difficult spare part with nothing to sell and no entertainment based reputation to fall back on? What does he bring to the sofa?

The current WBA world heavyweight boxing champion David Haye was – I’m embarrassed to say – unknown to me but proved entertaining to watch because he defied the stereotypical view of boxers whose skills at sentence construction usually reflect the amount of times they’ve had seven-bells knocked out of them. Put simply, Hayes sold himself as a a relaxed and engaging TV personality, one in search of a media role.

The three guests worked together well, bouncing off one another effortlessly, this in no small part down to Midler’s obvious ease not playing the steretypical superstar. A nice mix of anecdotes, relatively low-key promotions and seemingly unexpected comedy moments (the ‘falling off the sofa’ gag worked unexpectedly well) delivered in a seamless piece of editing.

But there was one fly in the ointment. There had to be. Midler mimed her song Dreamland. Clearly part of the deal struck when her agent agreed for her to use Norton’s show as a promotional vehicle, Midler’s failure to sing live in the same way as any of the previous acts have done this series left a sour taste in the mouth. I could have just streamed the song off Napster. Her studio ‘performance’ contributed nothing. A shame. As the song is gorgeous and it’s a real treat to see Midler on the small screen.

:: Watch Episode 5 of the Graham Norton Show via BBC Programmes

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